Alternative fuel vehicles are vehicles that run on fuels other than "traditional" petroleum products (petrol or diesel); it also refers to any technology of powering an engine that does not involve solely petroleum (e.g. electric car, hybrid electric vehicles, solar powered). Because of a combination of factors, such as environmental concerns, high oil prices and the potential for peak oil, development of cleaner alternative fuels and advanced power systems for vehicles has become a high priority for many governments and vehicle manufacturers around the world.
Hybrid electric vehicles such as the Toyota Prius are not actually alternative fuel vehicles, but through advanced technologies in the electric battery and motor/generator, they make a more efficient use of petroleum fuel. Other research and development efforts in alternative forms of power focus on developing all-electric and fuel cell vehicles, and even the stored energy of compressed air.
As of 2011 there were more than one billion vehicles in use in the world, compared with around 70 million alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles that had been sold or converted worldwide as of December 2011, and made up mainly of:
The air engine is an emission-free piston engine that uses compressed air as a source of energy. The first compressed air car was invented by a French engineer named Guy Nègre. The expansion of compressed air may be used to drive the pistons in a modified piston engine. Efficiency of operation is gained through the use of environmental heat at normal temperature to warm the otherwise cold expanded air from the storage tank. This non-adiabatic expansion has the potential to greatly increase the efficiency of the machine. The only exhaust is cold air (−15 °C), which could also be used to air condition the car. The source for air is a pressurized carbon-fiber tank. Air is delivered to the engine via a rather conventional injection system. Unique crank design within the engine increases the time during which the air charge is warmed from ambient sources and a two stage process allows improved heat transfer rates.
Battery electric vehicles (BEVs), also known as all-electric vehicles (AEVs), are electric vehicles whose main energy storage is in the chemical energy of batteries. BEVs are the most common form of what is defined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as zero emission vehicle (ZEV) because they produce no tailpipe emissions at the point of operation. The electrical energy carried on board a BEV to power the motors is obtained from a variety of battery chemistries arranged into battery packs.
For additional range genset trailers or pusher trailers are sometimes used, forming a type of hybrid vehicle. Batteries used in electric vehicles include "flooded" lead-acid, absorbed glass mat, NiCd, nickel metal hydride, Li-ion, Li-poly and zinc-air batteries.
Attempts at building viable, modern battery-powered electric vehicles began in the 1950s with the introduction of the first modern (transistor controlled) electric car - the Henney Kilowatt, even though the concept was out in the market since 1890. Despite the poor sales of the early battery-powered vehicles, development of various battery-powered vehicles continued through the mids 1990s, with such models as the General Motors EV1 and the Toyota RAV4 EV.
Battery powered cars have primarily used lead-acid batteries and NiMH batteries. Lead-acid batteries' recharge capacity is considerably reduced if they're discharged beyond 75% on a regular basis, making them a less-than-ideal solution. NiMH batteries are a better choice, but are considerably more expensive than lead-acid. Lithium-ion battery powered vehicles such as the Venturi Fetish and the Tesla Roadster have recently demonstrated excellent performance and range, but they remain expensive, nevertheless is used in most mass production models launched in the late 2000s.
As of January 2013, several neighborhood electric vehicles, city electric cars and series production highway-capable electric cars are available in several countries, including Tesla Roadster, GEM cars, REVAi, Buddy, Th!nk City, Mitsubishi i MiEV, Nissan Leaf, Smart ED, Wheego Whip LiFe, Mia electric, BYD e6, Bolloré Bluecar, Renault Fluence Z.E., Ford Focus Electric, BMW ActiveE, Coda, Tesla Model S, Honda Fit EV, RAV4 EV second generation, Renault Zoe, and Roewe E50. Models scheduled for market launch in 2013 and 2014 include the Fiat 500e, Scion iQ EV, Chevrolet Spark EV, Volkswagen e-Up!, BMW i3, REVA NXR, Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive, Tesla Model X, and Infiniti LE.
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